Searcher Spotlight: Joe Keyser

When Joe Keyser joined the SAR Team in 2009, he had it in mind to “give back to the community,” as so many others do. He also thought he might pick up some useful training. But what he didn’t know about was the Mountain Rescue Group (MRG).

“Getting involved with the MRG was an unexpected bonus,” he says.

He also probably didn’t know how much he was going to get to use the wilderness-survival skills he had accrued over the years. These came into play in August when he taught the SAR Wilderness First Responder class.

Joe is a native of Portland who went to college in Washington, but has lived in Contra Costa County now for over 20 years. He, his wife, and lab-mix dog live in Concord.

Joe’s day job as a management and accounting consultant circles an office environment, so when he wants to get away he goes outdoors. For fun, he backpacks, hikes, skis, rides his mountain bike and travels. He also combines both work and fun as a backpacking guide in Yosemite during the summer.

During the WFR course, Joe emphasized improvisation. “While it’s important to have your gear ready,” he says, “you can’t possibly always carry everything you might need. Learn to make do with what you have.”

SAR has given Joe a wide range of experience, some of it surprising. “You never know where SAR might take you,” he says. “When I joined the team four years ago, I never would have thought I would help tear down sheds where a kidnap victim was held; become an EMT and teach a medical course; or search remote river canyons and mountains in parts of the state I’d never heard of before. The opportunities to serve the community while growing as a person as a member of the SAR team are almost limitless.”